The Trillium Lakelands District School Board has written to the minister of education, Stephen Lecce, about the unique challenges facing our local board in wake of provincial cuts to education.
The letter comes on the heels of an Advocate opinion piece that questioned why the local school board was not doing more to advocate on behalf of local students. For instance, a few Greater Toronto Area boards wrote letters directly to the minister to share their concerns.
TLDSB chair of the board, Bruce Reain, told the Advocate that TLDSB largely relies on the Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) to represent its interests.
“At this point in time we have not planned to write a letter to the Minister of Education,” he wrote to the Advocate, just before the Feb. 24 column, because of the reliance on OPSBA.
The Advocate spent time going through the information on the OPSBA platforms and noticed it did not seem to be very active, nor did it appear to take a particular stand on recent issues that have galvanized much of Ontario – especially families.
Reain’s letter to the minister, though, brings up concerns similar to those of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF).
In the letter to the minister, which was also sent to Lecce’s predecessor in early 2019, Reain writes of TLDSB’s massive size and what that means for local decision making.
“As you know, TLDSB covers a significant portion of central Ontario. Our secondary schools are generally quite distant from one another and several are in smaller communities. Decreasing funding to the board by increasing class size, which will inevitably result in fewer classroom teachers, will create significant challenges for us in our ability to support our students and offer a reasonable menu of core and optional credits. We anticipate having to make difficult decisions about course offerings…”
In fact, TLDSB is so big it is larger than two Prince Edward Islands combined.
Reain, on behalf of the board, also writes how TLDSB has developed “an extraordinary E-learning platform over the past fifteen years.”
But as the chair outlines, there are concerns.
“We have come to learn, however, that there is a significant difference between voluntary participation and mandatory participation in E-learning courses. We are concerned that mandatory participation in this type of course is not for every student and that attrition from these courses may have the unintended consequence of students being required to return for an extra semester at the end of grade 12 due to incompletion of online courses. Additionally, we know that E-learning is simply not for all students. Many of our students will struggle with the demands of self-directed learning; others may not have adequate broadband service in their rural setting; and some may struggle with special requirements that will prohibit them from being able to complete courses.”
Again, these are similar issues the OSSTF has spoken out against in its opposition to the government’s education plans.
At this point, there appears to be no bargaining going on between the government and the various unions. Local OSSTF members in TLDSB, OECTA and AEFO will hold a one day strike on strike March 5. As well, educators across Canada will participate in the National Day of Action by wearing red, displaying ETFO logos and signs as they enter schools.
To share your concerns with the education minister, Stephen Lecce, write to him at . To write to Laurie Scott, our local MPP, write to .